The Oklahoma state legislature overrode Governor Brad Henry’s (D) veto of a bill that will require doctors to report detailed information about patients seeking abortions to the government yesterday. The state Senate voted 33 to 15 in favor of the override yesterday and the state House had already voted 84 to 13 Monday. The legislation will go into effect on November 1, 2010 and require reporting forms to be submitted to the Department of health by April 1, 2012. A spokesperson for Governor Henry, Paul Sund, told Tulsa World, “It is disappointing because every veto override just triggers more lawsuits and legal bills for taxpayers.”
Similar abortion laws passed by the Legislature were challenged and thrown out by the courts last year, and the latest versions are probably headed for the same fate.” The questionnaire will ultimately be posted on the Oklahoma State Department of Health website and includes information as detailed as a woman’s reason for an abortion, her age, marital status, the date of the abortion, and the total number of previous pregnancies, miscarriages, abortions, and live births. Though supporters of the bill argue that the omission of a woman’s name and address preserves her right to privacy, opponents assert that it would be possible to identify a woman from a small town from the information to be published.
According to the American Medical Association, “the physician’s duty to maintain confidentiality means that a physician may not disclose any medical information revealed by a patient or discovered by a physician in connection with the treatment of a patient.In general, AMA’s Code of Medical Ethics states that the information disclosed to a physician during the course of the patient-physician relationship is confidential to the utmost degree. ” In March 2010, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the February ruling of a state District Court saying that an anti-choice law that included the current patient reporting requirements was unconstitutional on the basis that it violated state rules requiring legislation address only a single subject. This law also included provisions requiring detailed descriptions of ultrasounds and prohibiting sex-selective abortions, among other provisions.
The current reporting law is the third piece of anti-choice legislation vetoed by Governor Henry that has been enacted through a legislative override. A law that that would require medical professionals to show women an ultrasound image and give women a detailed description of the fetus prior to performing an abortion procedure went into effect immediately following a veto override by the state legislature in late April 2010 and was in effect for nearly a week. The state Attorney General agreed early in May 2010 to a state judge’s order to temporarily block enforcement of this ultrasound law. The Oklahoma state legislature also overrode the veto of a second anti-choice bill in April 2010 that prohibits women from suing doctors who intentionally withhold information or provide misleading or inaccurate information about a pregnancy.
In addition to the three vetoes, Governor Henry has signed several anti-choice bills over the past few months. One requires abortion clinics to post signs in their facilities stating that women cannot be coerced to have an abortion, that a woman’s voluntary consent is required to obtain the procedure, and that sex selective abortions are illegal, at the same time. Others outlaw sex-selective abortion, institute a “conscience clause” allowing healthcare providers to refuse to participate in abortion procedures or refer patients to abortion providers, and the put restrictions on the administration of mifepristone (also known as RU-486) by requiring it be administered in the presence of a physician.